With both sides needing a win to get their seasons back on track, things started at a reasonable level pegging for the two teams.
In the end, though, it was the Canberra Raiders who excelled, led by the work of halves duo Sam Williams and Blake Austin. Both players were the catalysts for the Raiders, as they scored tries and set them up, seemingly with ease.
After a relatively dismal effort by their own standards last week, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart admits that this week, they were better and played smarter.
“We were a bit smarter in areas of our game,” Stuart said after the win.
“We played with a lot of heart, energy and a lot of desire but we worked harder this week in being smarter with parts of our play especially on the end of our sets.”
There was an early milestone reached in the game when Raiders captain Jarrod Croker converted an early try, bringing up his 1000th point in first-grade.
That was followed by an early blow for the Newcastle Knights who immediately went down to 16 men, after Jack Stockwell left the field early with a bicep injury.
As the game went back and forth in the middle stages, both teams showed some attacking prowess, with the battle seemingly between Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin and Knights fullback Dane Gagai.
Both were impressive for their respective sides and did what was required to get them into good positions. Ultimately, Austin received support from team-mates and that got the Raiders over the line in their 44-22 win.
With that injury to Stockwell and a further injury to prop David Fa’alogo, things are not about to get any easier for the Knights over the bye period.
“It doesn’t get any easier. The opposition played alright I just don’t think we handled the start particularly well at all, especially our defence in the middle,” Knights coach Rick Stone said.
“It was disappointing, we have had a couple of big weeks travelling and I still think our expectation was a little bit better than those first 15, 20 minutes, that’s for sure.”
There was praise all-round when Jarrod Croker cracked the 1000-point mark, as he joins David Furner and Clinton Schifcofske has the only two Raiders to reach that mark. With the milestone now reached, Croker requires just 261 points to become the Raiders highest-ever point-scorer.
“Jarrod achieved a great milestone and he’s going to go on and break all the records at this club,” Stuart said.
“I was really excited for Jarrod because it’s a big effort and being so young into his career and achieving that, we just congratulated him there in the change rooms. It’s a huge effort for an individual.”
3. Sam Williams
2. Blake Austin
1. Dane Gagai
Canberra Raiders 44 (Edrick Lee 2, Blake Austin 2, Jack Wighton, Josh Papalii, Jarrod Croker Tries; Jarrod Croker 8 Goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 22 (Akuila Uate, Joey Leilua, Sione Mata’utia, Dane Gagai Tries; Kurt Gidley 3 Goals) at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 13,504. Half-time: Raiders 24-10.